About Town, Week of April 22


April 26, 2019:

Tarmo Hannula: If you’re out driving around Watsonville today, and plan to in the next several days, be aware that there is construction going on that is slowing traffic on South Green Valley Road between Loma Prieta Avenue and Freedom Boulevard; East Lake Avenue between Wagner Avenue and Holohan Road; Freedom Boulevard an near Crestview Drive. Traffic is barely moving in these construction zones, in that works have closed off lanes for work to continue.

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ABOVE: Work continues on the construction of new sidewalks, curbs and gutter on each side of East Lake Avenue. (Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

The Santa Cruz County History Fair is coming May 18 to the Capitola Community Center at Jade Street Park. The event, which runs from noon to 4 p.m., will include entries from a host of groups, including the Pajaro Valley Historical Association, The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, the S.C. Museum of Art and History, Castro Adobe, and others. It’s free. For information, call 464-0322.

The annual Big Sur International Marathon takes place Sunday. Besides a lot of fun and excitement for runners, it also means major traffic issues going through Big Sur up until 1 p.m.

“The Big Sur Marathon will officially end at 1 p.m. when the course will reopen to regular two-way vehicular traffic,” officials stated. The marathon is a point-to-point course run on scenic Highway 1 from Big Sur to Carmel the last Sunday each April. The centerpiece of the course is the iconic Bixby Bridge, located at the halfway point of the race. The run is limited to 4,500 qualified entrants, 16 years or older, who are in good health and well trained.

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ABOVE: The Big Sur Internationa Marathon hits its halfway point at the famed Bixby Bridge. (Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

Reminder: The 18th annual Reel Work May Day Labor Day Film Festival is ongoing, with a venue still on the marquee for Watsonville tonight. Free to the public (donations are accepted at the door), the event focuses on labor issues through contemporary films that tackle the topic. The films, which are often followed up with Q&A with special guests, takes place at a wealth of venues around Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties. “Adios Amor: The Search for Maria Moreno,” a film about four Texas women and their union organizing from1930 to 1960, takes place tonight at the forum in the Cabrillo College Watsonville Center on Union St. at 7 p.m. For info visit www.reelwork.org.

Another reminder: Earth Day/Day of the Child runs Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Held in downtown at Watsonville Plaza, the free, family-oriented event includes loads of kids’ activities, food and prizes, entertainment, jump houses, free parking and gobs of educational booths and tables regarding conservation, the environment and the natural surroundings of the Pajaro Valley.

Quote of the day: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” –Henry Ford.

Johanna Miller: This morning I stopped by Cesar Chavez Elementary School, where a jazz band called Prince Lawsha and the Jazz Day All-Stars were playing for students in the cafeteria. Many of the students were from the Cesar Chavez Band, and I could tell they were really enjoying and being inspired by the concert.

The show was also held at other schools across the county, including Pajaro Valley Middle School, in celebration of International Jazz Day. On Sunday the All-Stars will play a free show at on the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf bandstand at noon. Legendary musician Pete Escovedo and his Escobedo Orchestra will also appear.

Lift Line, a program organized by the Community Bridges organization, celebrated the introduction of 2 new all-electric shuttles and two new charging stations at their fleet facility in Watsonville this morning.

This is the first time a public transportation agency in Santa Cruz County has officially utilized all-electric vehicles.

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Community Bridges' Lift Line program celebrated the introduction of its two new electric shuttles and charging stations. (Johanna Miller/Register-Pajaronian)

Tomorrow is a special day: it’s Independent Bookstore Day! Be sure to stop by Kelly’s Books at 1838 Main Street in Watsonville to pick up a good book and support a local business. Owner Kelly Pleskunas is hosting a sale beginning at 10 a.m. tomorrow. Every customer will receive 10 percent off books and also entered into a drawing. Let’s show our support!

I read a New York Times Article today about a recent Gallup poll that revealed how Americans are among the most stressed people in the world.

People reported experiencing stress, anger and worry at the highest rate in a decade last year, in a poll that surveyed more than 150,000 individuals.

Suddenly, I don’t feel so alone. Not that that’s a good thing in this context…

This weekend is the final chance to see Cabrillo Theater Arts Department’s comedy-drama “Time of Your Life.” The William Saroyan play, which is set in a waterfront saloon in San Francisco in 1939, has won both the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. Cabrillo’s production is directed by Robin Aronson.

Despite working at the Cabrillo College Box Office, on the weekends, I have yet to see the play—tomorrow night I plan on it. Visit cabrillovapa.com for information.

April 25, 2019:

Tarmo Hannula: Adding to the giant group of Democratic candidates for president, former vice president Joe Biden signed in on Thursday. He’s all over the news, on the side of every milk carton, banner, billboard, ad, flier, newspaper, radio and on and on. I never cared for him, mainly because of his habit of dashing off some quip or comment that quickly turned into a disaster. He does it a lot. And furthermore, can you remember one thing he said or did in the eight years he was VP?

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Several people have died recently while taking “selfie” photos of themselves with their smart phones at the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and other popular vista points. One of the most incredible cases was of a young man who illegally went beyond the softy chain with his camera at one of the famous waterfalls in Yosemite to snap of photo of himself. He was dangerously close to the edge of the flowing river at the top of the falls. Despite his friends hollering at him to come back, over he went, camera in hand.

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A fire has displaced at least 10 people and one pet at a townhome on the 100 block of Bright View Lane in Watsonville. The 5:48 a.m. blaze, just off of Winding Way and Pennsylvania Drive, drew a huge response from firefighters. No injuries were reported. The cause is under investigation, said Battalion Chief Rick Pettigrew. The fire appeared to have largely been contained to one garage but water and smoke damage was significant in that the heat and smoke travelled up into the attic of one home, Pettigrew said.

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ABOVE: A fire gutted the garage of one townhouse and damaged three vehicles. —Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is holding their annual “Below the Boardwalk” tour, which allows guests to get exposed to some of the behind the scenes elements of the historic amusement park. Limited space is available for the event that runs from 9:30 a.m. to noon Saturday. Tickets are $23 for residents, and $35 for everyone else. You must be 18 years or older and Boardwalk rides are not included in the fare. Call 420-5270 to sign up.

A series of tornadoes have ripped apart sections of San Augustine, Texas and parts of Louisiana. So far, at least five people have been confirmed to be dead as the result of heavy rains, severe flooding and high winds by at least five tornadoes Wednesday and Thursday, the National Weather Service reported.

One section of the Cabrillo College Watsonville Center got a fresh coat of paint last week. It’s same soft yellow color with light brown trim — just a fresh coat of paint.

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ABOVE: Antonio Mavroforakis paint the trim to a window at the from the Cabrillo College in Watsonville. —Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian 

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I would advise not driving on South Green Valley Road between the Home Depot and Freedom Boulevard. City crews are getting started on a big water line project. I’ve seen some big equipment out there, a few trenches and long lines of road cones that have narrowed the four lanes of traffic to two. So traffic is a mess. Use an alternate route. Officials in the Watsonville Dept. of Public Works have not returned several calls for information about the job.

Quote of the day: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” — Maya Angelou

April 24, 2019:

Tarmo Hannula: Spring took on a stronger role yesterday as temperatures edged into the 70s along the coast and the low 90s inland. Meteorologists say today will be much cooler, a trend predicted to sail into the weekend. I’m not ready for hot weather… not that my opinion matters in the greater scheme.

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ABOVE: These women guard themselves from direct sunlight Wednesday while walking on Riverside Drive. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

Speaking of not being ready, I just can’t get excited about the next cast of presidential candidates, being more than 500 days from the next election. There are 20 of them on the democrat list. Can you imagine sitting through a debate where each of them have three minutes to respond to a question— and there are, perhaps, 10 questions! This comes out in the wash like this: One question equals one hour, and that’s only if each candidate sticks rigidly to the three-minute rule, which few of them do. Ten questions would take 10 hours. Would you even stay awake? Or would you go to bed, wake up, make coffee and pick up where they left off? I wouldn’t. And then there’d probably be five more debates, of 50 more hours. Ugh.

There’s a new street sign in Watsonville for Blackbird Circle — a loop that winds through the new Blackbird Homes on Harkins Slough Road (behind Ramsay Park). The project, that included 48 single-family homes with three and four bedroom floor plans, is accepting applications. Visit www.blackbirdhomes.net for information.

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ABOVE: A new street sign labels Blackbird Circle, a loop that runs through the new Blackbird Homes at 35 Harkins Slough Road. —Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian 

There was some intense police activity around Watsonville today. It began on Freedom Boulevard around 12:15 p.m. when police got behind a moving vehicle that they believed held a man they were looking for who weapons charges. Police conducted a felony car stop and shut down southbound Freedom Boulevard where they too the suspect into custody near Airport Boulevard. A short time later a swarm of armed police surrounded on a home on the 100 block of Jefferson Street. After securing the two-story hone in a rear alley, they searched the home. We’re still waiting for word on how that ended.

A fire broke out behind The Towers, the old hospital building on Green valley Road at Holohan Road around 12:35 p.m. Witnesses reported flames spreading along a cyclone fence that wraps around a parking lot. Before firefighters could arrive, the fire tore into three vehicles, causing major damage and a total loss to an SUV. Two cars sustained front end damage. No injuries were reported and the cause of the blaze is still under investigation, said Watsonville Fire Operations Division Chief Corey Schaefer.

April 23, 2019:

Tarmo Hannula: A Caltrans crew closed one southbound lane of Highway 1 near the Main Street exit Tuesday morning in order to repair a guardrail that had been caved in recently by some form of crash. Traffic was slowed in the area for a few hours.

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ABOVE: A crew replaces a smashed guardrail along southbound Highway 1 Tuesday near the Main Street exit. —Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian 

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In Monday’s About Town I erroneously stated that a man was the driver (it was a woman) in an incredible high-speed chase with the Sheriff’s Office and the California Highway Patrol. Sgt. Dee Baldwin of the Sheriff’s Office said the chase originated in Watsonville before 2:30 a.m. and ended 55 minutes later in South San Jose. Baldwin said Jessica Gaytan 21, of Watsonville, was taken into custody at the Montague Expressway. Though police initially believed a man involved in a January shooting might have been aboard, that turned out to not be true. 

A judge has ruled that Camp Ross, a large homeless camp at the corner of Highway 1 at River Street in Santa Cruz, is a public nuisance. The emergency ruling by Judge Paul Burdick has cleared the way for officials to close the site, where as many as 200 people live; campers will now be asked to voluntarily leave by 4 p.m. Wednesday.

An alternative site has been approved and is currently under construction at the benchlands of San Lorenzo Park, close to downtown Santa Cruz. City officials are saying that the grassy field, which flanks the San Lorenzo River, offers a far greater sanitary setting than Camp Ross. 

Officials have been concerned of a fire hazard at Camp Ross, on top of reports of four deaths there recently, and drug use.

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The death toll in the terrorist bombing in Sri Lanka has now reached 310, with hundreds more injured. Some news reports are stating that the terrorist group Isis is claiming responsibility for the attacks on churches and hotel on Easter Sunday.

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So far 16 people have been killed by two powerful earthquakes Monday in the Philippines, authorities said on Tuesday. Additionally, 81 people were injured and 14 remain missing, the Office of Civil Defense said.

On northbound Highway 1 at Buena Vista there was a large heap of bagged trash that crews had collected along the highway. It always amazes me how much stuff people toss out their windows. A crew came by Monday and carried it all away.

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ABOVE: A large heap of bagged trash sits on the northbound shoulder of Highway 1 near Buena Vista Drive. —Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian 

I caught wind —not officially confirmed yet — that a new Betty’s Burgers might open on Trout Gulch Road just off of Soquel Drive near the entrance to the new Aptos Village Project.

A large sign outside the Halfmoon Market on Green Valley Road (near Pinto Lake City Park) advertises “Now serving fresh burritos,” and “Menudo on Saturday and Sunday.”

April 22, 2019:

Johanna Miller: Today is Earth Day, a worldwide event held every April 22 to show support for environmental protection and awareness. While I agree with the people I’ve heard claim “Every day is earth day!,” it is nice to set aside a day every year to remind people why these protections are so important.

I do try to do my part to minimize my footprint on the world: recycling, avoiding plastic, not wasting water, etc. But often it feels like these small gestures are not doing much.

Seeing how much global climate change has affected nature (and in turn, human beings) just in my lifetime is terrifying.

In my opinion, things need to be changed on a much bigger scale if we want to combat these issues.

On Saturday my family and I took part in Passport Weekend, in which a large group of wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains open their doors to offer special tastings and other events. You can buy a Wine Passport for $75, and enjoy free tastings at more than 40 wineries in the area at any time of the year—and these special events four times a year.

While my parents were the ones with the passports, my uncle and I tagged along as well. It was a great experience—we visited three wineries we’d never been to: Burrell School, Loma Prieta and Wrights Station.

Each winery was a unique experience. Perhaps my favorite wine was a Chardonnay from Burrell School, and Loma Prieta Winery offered the best views. The ambiance and staff of Wright’s Station were wonderful—we ended up buying a bottle of red from them.

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ABOVE: Loma Prieta, the highest peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains, is seen from Loma Prieta Winery in Los Gatos. —Johanna Miller/Register-Pajaronian

Yesterday I attended the Hanamatsuri Festival at the Watsonville Buddhist Temple. I always enjoy these events at the temple; everyone is so welcoming and friendly—whether I’m there to cover the story or just as a community member.

Hanamatsuri (meaning "flower festival") observes the birth of Buddha. Sunday’s event had flower displays, entertainment, food vendors and much more.

Despite it landing of Easter, the social hall at the temple had a sizable group of people when I arrived. When I left about an hour later, containers of cabbage salad in hand, Watsonville Taiko was preparing to perform.

One last reminder to check out Watsonville High School’s spring musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” I saw it on Saturday and enjoyed every minute. What talent these kids have! Catch performances this week, Wednesday—Sunday. Tickets: whs-pajaro-ca.schoolloop.com/VAPA.

Tarmo Hannula: The Santa Cruz City Council will convene on their regular Tuesday meeting to mull over the giant topic of whether to temporarily or permanently close Camp Ross, a sprawling impromptu homeless encampment along Highway 1 at River Street. At issue are at least four deaths and reports of rampant drug use, evinced by the presence of syringes and other drug paraphernalia.

City officials posted signs to inform people that they will be required to vacate the site early this week to make way for a massive clean up. On top of that, the City Council has asked a civil judge in the Superior Court to step in to the matter at an “emergency hearing” Monday at 1 p.m.

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There was an incredible high-speed chase early Easter morning. It started on Freedom Boulevard, when a deputy with the Sheriff’s office tried to pull over a Ford with a man driving and a woman passenger at 2:30 a.m. The suspect drove onto northbound Highway 1 and hit about 115 mph. The driver then took Larkin Valley Road to White Road to Freedom Boulevard, and then onto Corralitos Road. While reaching speeds of 60-80 mph, with no traffic, the chase went up Eureka Canyon Road to Summit Road and sped north. After blowing through numerous stop signs and reaching 100 mph. the pursuit went onto northbound Highway 17, over the hill to southbound 85 toward Gilroy. Meanwhile the CHP took over the chase. The vehicle ended up coming to a halt near Montague Expressway where the pair was taken into custody.

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I was lucky to attend an interesting music show at the Ugly Mug in Soquel Village Saturday night. On stage were locals Chris Chandler, Paul Benoit and Dan Berg with their blend of folk country and social commentary that incorporated vocals, acoustic guitars and harmonica. Their unique songs laced with humorous lyrics, some spoken, others sang, that referenced William Blake, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Jack Kerouac, outer space, gravity, cell phones and black tornadoes. The crowd of about two dozen mostly sat stunned in disbelief. It was hard to believe, what these three were up to. Zany at times, bohemian, hints of the beat generation, with parallels to singer Greg Brown, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. The Ugly Mug proved to be a comfortable setting, no cover charge and room to spread out. Sarah and I shared a hot chocolate and enjoyed their first set of tunes for about an hour.

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Watsonville held its first full-blown Easter Egg Hunt and celebration at Pinto Lake City Park Saturday. There was not one parking spot available, giving evidence that the 1-5 p.m. event was heavily attended. Jump houses, food tents, live music, sack races, tug-a-war, egg painting and other activities filled the six-hour event.

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ABOVE: A young girl enjoys drawing on a egg at the first Easter Egg Hunt held at Pinto Lake City Park Saturday. —Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

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A huge tragedy has unraveled in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday: A series of terrorist bombings at churches, hotels and elsewhere that left at least 290 dead and close to 500 injured. Simply awful. Here were close to 800 people who were going about their day, attending services, joining friends and family, getting things done when they were violently interrupted. This is to say nothing of the family and friends of these people whose lives have been affected.

One baffling and concerning aspect of this event was how President Trump responded in his Tweet: “the horrible terrorist attacks on churches and hotels that have killed at least 138 million people and badly injured 600 more.” The population of Sri Lanka, in 2018, was around 22 million. Trump, to me, has never been talented at bestowing calm and reason and, as I’ve read, has a habit of grossly distorting facts and figures revolving around tragedies. About 10 million people died in World War I and around 60 million died in World War II. In a single click of the computer key (tweet) Trump outdid two of the largest military conflicts in human history by a long shot by coming up with his own bizarre, fact-free numbers.

To view last week's About Town go to https://register-pajaronian.com/article/about-town-week-of-april-15.

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